Gas Fireplace - Shut off pilot light during warm months??

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Gas Fireplace - Shut off pilot light during warm months??

Postby Saluki31 » Wed Dec 15, 2010 2:53 pm

Does anyone with a gas fireplace turn off the pilot during periods of non-use? The person who installed ours said to leave the pilot lit year round, regardless of use. He said it would prevent moisture from rusting out the unit over time.

We live in the midwest - so we get all seasons. We really never use the fireplace due to a strong odor that is emitted after the fireplace has been on for more than 15 minutes or so. The smell is likely due to the glue in the mantle heating up. Not much we can do about it. Thus I'd like to turn the pilot off year round, but am worried about rusting.

Anyone knowledgeable able to offer an opinion?
Thanks!
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Postby TranceLordSnyder » Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:02 pm

Do you know what gas smells like? The actual gas doesn't smell, but there is an additive put in so you can smell if there is a gas leak. I would get a propane and natural gas detector just to make sure you aren't leaking anything, or turn off the gas from your tank or main.

I shut off my pilot light once the weather warms up and turn it back on when it's cold enough to run the fireplace again. I don't see any signs of deterioration. My opinion is, it costs to leave the pilot light on and it's not very environmentally friendly to keep burning gas. I don't know what the right answer is though.
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We have three of them:

Postby Nowizard » Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:05 pm

One is on an outside patio, two are in the house. I leave the pilot on for the one on the patio due to possible moisture, but not the ones in the house itself. No problem other than you have to bleed the line for a few minutes when lighting the pilot in the fall. Some have said the same thing about pilot lights for central heating units for years, leave them on, but newer units have no pilot light and there are no problems.

Tim
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Postby carolc » Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:22 pm

I have two propane stoves. One in the living room and one in the sunroom. I turn both off during the warm months each year because I don't want the additional heat added to the house (especially on those 90 degree days).
Haven't noticed any problems with rusting.

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Postby Atilla » Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:29 pm

It's plenty humid here in the summer. I have always turned the gas fireplace pilot light off during seasons of non-use. Never noticed any rust when I relight the thing in the late fall.

Instructions don't have any kind of warning about rust either.
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Postby livesoft » Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:35 pm

Not for the fireplace, but we turn off the pilot light of our furnaces in the months we will not be using them. If we don't use the furnaces, but we leave on the pilot lights our gas bill goes from $20 a month to $40 a month.

Our gas log fireplace does not have a pilot light.
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Postby idahospud » Wed Dec 15, 2010 4:34 pm

We have a big propane heater unit to warm up the house (rural central Idaho) and a propane fireplace for the sun and computer room.
The wife and I have had a longstanding disagreement of how we should handle the pilot lights during the summer.

I am looking for a consensus agreement from this wise body of boglehead posters. Don't disappoint. :wink:
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Postby jstat » Wed Dec 15, 2010 4:43 pm

We turned off the pilot light during the summer for the first couple of years and the insert started to rust. There was noticeable condensation on the interior of the glass front during the summer months.

We repaired the rust, and have since left the pilot light on year round. No rust, no condensation.
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Postby LonePrairie » Wed Dec 15, 2010 6:00 pm

When I had a technician here to service the natural gas fireplace in my living room, he told me to leave the pilot light lit all year round. He said it doesn't use much gas and leaving it lit prevents rust and keeps out mice.
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Postby BamaFan » Wed Dec 15, 2010 6:37 pm

We always turn our pilot off when not in use. We have been doing this for 10+ years with no probelms.
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Postby Bylo Selhi » Wed Dec 15, 2010 6:39 pm

In case safety is an issue, i.e. that the pilot might go out, make sure that your fireplace has a feature like this (from the owner's manual of our fireplace):
For your safety, this appliance is fitted with a flame supervision device which will shut-off the gas supply if, for any reason, the pilot flame goes out. This device incorporates a fixed probe, which senses the heat from the pilot flame. If the probe is cool, the device will prevent any gas flow unless manually lighting the pilot.
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Postby SpringMan » Wed Dec 15, 2010 6:53 pm

We leave our gas logs fireplace pilot on all the time. The installer recommended this because of condensation and also because it may prevent an insect from getting in there and clogging things up.
Best Wishes, SpringMan
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Postby fandango » Wed Dec 15, 2010 8:11 pm

We have had gas logs for 20 years in two homes.

We have always turned off the pilot lights in the spring and then relit them in the fall.

We have had no problems with doing this.
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Postby rfburns » Wed Dec 15, 2010 8:45 pm

I'll go out on a limb here.

This falls under old wives tales and myths. An old thought back in the early days of central air conditioning was that pilots in the old clamshell heat exchangers should be left on year round to prevent condensation from forming on the inside of the exchanger since cool air would be drawn past it in summer. Made sense, but any evidence of truth was always anecdotal.

Prevention of condensation was the point. But how would a gas fireplace produce condensation with the pilot turned off? It would have to be quite cold and come into contact with warm humid air. If the fireplace is room temperature or warmer condensation cannot occur.
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Postby mephistophles » Wed Dec 15, 2010 8:54 pm

Saluk,
The gas guy told us we need never turn off the pilot light in our fireplace, so we don't. My brother in law thinks I am nuts and should never leave it on. He is a poor millionaire who only burns one bulb in his house at a time at night so I take his advice with a pound of salt.
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Postby jstat » Wed Dec 15, 2010 9:21 pm

But how would a gas fireplace produce condensation with the pilot turned off? It would have to be quite cold and come into contact with warm humid air.


In my case the fireplace is in a cool (air conditioned) basement room. When it is very hot and humid outside, moisture would condense on the inside of the fireplace glass. I live in Maryland, where hot humid summers are the norm, and the basement tends to get overcooled.

If we used less AC, or it didn't get as hot outside, my guess is the condensation problem would be much less.
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Postby rfburns » Wed Dec 15, 2010 9:53 pm

jstat wrote:In my case the fireplace is in a cool (air conditioned) basement room. When it is very hot and humid outside, moisture would condense on the inside of the fireplace glass. I live in Maryland, where hot humid summers are the norm, and the basement tends to get overcooled.

If we used less AC, or it didn't get as hot outside, my guess is the condensation problem would be much less.


Ahh. Maybe the chimney flue is still open? There should be a manual damper for you to close. If not, crack open the glass doors enough until the moisture disappears.
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Postby jstat » Wed Dec 15, 2010 10:17 pm

Ahh. Maybe the chimney flue is still open? There should be a manual damper for you to close. If not, crack open the glass doors enough until the moisture disappears


My gas fireplace is a sealed unit with an external vent, so no doors and no damper. I agree that if it was gas logs in a regular fireplace it wouldn't be a problem, since I have never had condensation on the glass doors of my old-fashioned wood burning fireplace.
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Postby Saluki31 » Wed Dec 15, 2010 10:24 pm

TranceLordSnyder wrote:Do you know what gas smells like? The actual gas doesn't smell, but there is an additive put in so you can smell if there is a gas leak. I would get a propane and natural gas detector just to make sure you aren't leaking anything, or turn off the gas from your tank or main.

I shut off my pilot light once the weather warms up and turn it back on when it's cold enough to run the fireplace again. I don't see any signs of deterioration. My opinion is, it costs to leave the pilot light on and it's not very environmentally friendly to keep burning gas. I don't know what the right answer is though.


I do know what gas smells like, and fortunately it's not gas. The smell originates after the fireplace is on for 20 minutes or so. It is bad enough that we don't use the fireplace because of it. We had the installer come out and inspect it. He said everything is in working order. The smell might go away after a long burn in. It has not. He said it could be glue in the mantle that heats up and gives off an odor. Regardless, we never use the fireplace because of it.

Since some others have experienced rust and condensation, I guess I'll leave the pilot lit. I don't like paying for gas usage, considering we never use it. But, I guess that's better than the whole thing rusting out.

Thanks for everyone's input!
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Postby zinnia » Thu Dec 16, 2010 1:36 pm

I too was advised to keep the pilot on 12 months a year. One of the reasons I was given is when turned off for a period of time, spiders are attracted to it. They clog it up. The technician said half his calls in the fall are for gas logs that won't light and most times it's spider .
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Postby Stuart01 » Thu Dec 16, 2010 1:42 pm

Our fireplace guy also recommended leaving the pilot on. We had a clogged up orfice (probably due to a spider?). Now leave it on and no problems.

Glad it is working at the moment! Baby, its cold outside!!

Cheers! :lol:
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Postby FrugalInvestor » Thu Dec 16, 2010 1:58 pm

I turn the gas off to my fireplace when not using it. I've never had a problem with rust or insects, but that's not to say I couldn't. Each fall before regular use I remove the front glass to clean it - it takes about 15 seconds to remove or replace the glass. I suppose if a bug had gotten in I would clean it out then.
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Postby matt » Thu Dec 16, 2010 2:43 pm

Saluki31 wrote:I don't like paying for gas usage, considering we never use it. But, I guess that's better than the whole thing rusting out.


May I ask the obvious question of why you feel the need to preserve something that you never use? Considering that there may not be a potential rust problem at all, this seems like an expensive choice to make.
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Postby Saluki31 » Thu Dec 16, 2010 2:56 pm

matt wrote:
Saluki31 wrote:I don't like paying for gas usage, considering we never use it. But, I guess that's better than the whole thing rusting out.


May I ask the obvious question of why you feel the need to preserve something that you never use? Considering that there may not be a potential rust problem at all, this seems like an expensive choice to make.


Our house is around 6 years old, so everything is in good condition. If we move in the future, I don't think a rusted out fireplace would be a very good selling point. Thus I don't want to risk any potential damage.
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